Review: ‘Disclosure’ is an emotional nail biter that warrants discussion.

From writer/director Michael Bentham, a film that hammers home the notion that “there are two sides to every story, and then there is the truth.” DISCLOSURE follows two couples who go to war over an allegation of child-on-child abuse. Australian documentary maker Emily, and her journalist husband, Danny, are reeling from an allegation of abuse their 4-year-old daughter Natasha has made against a local politician’s 9-year-old son, Ethan. Ethan’s parents, Joel and Bek, arrive unannounced at Emily and Danny’s house intent on convincing the couple that Natasha’s allegation is a fabrication. Accusations, arguments, and the ultimate search for leverage turn their civil conversation into a vicious confrontation.

Couple Vs couple tangling over abuse allegations between their children is one of the most visceral watches of the year, especially as a parent and former teacher myself. Disclosure boasts glorious performances and incredibly effective editing. Geraldine Hakewill, Mark Leonard Winter, Tom Wren, and Matilda Ridgway are simply outstanding and the use of a stationary camera allows the focus to remain on the nuanced beats within each scene. Long takes add to the tension and push a voyeuristic, “How long have you been standing there?” type of position for the audience. The dialogue is so weighty that you cannot separate your feelings from the characters. That’s great storytelling. We also explore the dynamics of gender roles, political fallout, past trauma, and marriage. One of the most intriguing is the way men communicate and the way women do. The avoidance, passive-aggressiveness, versus directness, is fascinating. At one point all bets are off and these couples will do anything to protect both their children and their own self-interest. Whose side will you be on? The fact that this is based upon a true story makes the entire thing all the more horrific. This is a lose-lose scenario no one wants to be a part of, but it does beg a larger discussion in the #MeeToo era: believing victims, victim shaming, trauma treatment, and all that comes with it. Writer-Director Michael Bentham gives us a bold film that deserves your attention. The film makes its North American debut tomorrow. Take a look at the trailer for a peek at what the audience is in store for.

DISCLOSURE arrives on VOD on 6/30 and DVD  7/7

Review: ‘Run This Town’ is a successful look at who does the dirty work in truth telling and true suppressing.

A young journalist and a young political aide become entangled in a larger-than-life political scandal as they struggle to navigate adult life. Like all their friends, Bram and Kamal are struggling to climb the ladders at their respective workplaces: Bram at a newspaper, Kamal at City Hall. When Bram learns of a scandal involving Kamal’s larger-than-life boss, he seizes the moment to advance his career. Meanwhile, Kamal grapples with containing the story while maintaining his integrity.

Ben Platt is swiftly becoming a household name for anyone outside of the Broadway, music industry, and Netflix world. Frankly, shame on you if you haven’t heard of him at this point. In Run This Town, Platt plays a budding journalist, Bram, who has Toronto’s biggest political scandal fall into his lap.

This entire cast has fresh and energetic chemistry. They ooze the ambition that each of these characters needs. Platt, Speedman, Dobrev, Ehle, and Massoud make things more than interesting. If I had to nitpick, the makeup on Damian Lewis as Ford is a bit over the top. It feels a bit cartoonish and is slightly distracting. That being said, the performance is so good I actually didn’t know it was Lewis under the makeup. The scene where Ford goes on a drunken rant with his employees is so cringey and intense, it will make your skin crawl. Replace Ford with any current slime ball “politician”, it’s an easy swap. Lewis’ performance is unhinged in the best way possible. Ben Platt is solid as ever. The specificity that he brings to Bram both physically and emotionally is top-notch.  His casting was a perfect choice. Massoud and Dobrev are equally vulnerable. Their performances are nothing short of captivating.

The editing in this film alone is so sharp that it forces you to sit up and pay attention. You have to keep up with the dialogue and quick cuts from the get-go. This script is timely as hell. It may revolve around Toronto’s Rob Ford but the rest of the world has its own garbage politician. This film is about the down and dirty and real work journalists have to do to battle to bullshit. But it’s also about the political spin; the young and hungry aides that twist the truth to put a party base at ease.

The score, along with the title and credit sequences are simply brilliant. Sort of a visual metaphor for finding the truth. The script takes a look at where On the whole, Run This Town is a super intriguing look at scandal, those who try to expose it, and those who suppress it. It highlights the work you don’t see and who is really responsible for moving the needle behind the scenes. It’s a great commentary on power, greed, ambition, xenophobia, and #MeToo. Run This Town is a fantastic feature debut for writer/director Ricky Tollman. The dialogue, in pacing and quippiness, is very reminiscent of Aaron Sorkin, particularly in the opening scene. That is precisely how you get an audience’s attention. Well done.

 

RUN THIS TOWN will be in U.S. theaters through Oscilloscope and On Demand and Digital through Quiver Distribution on March 6th, 2020.

Review: ‘WHAT IS DEMOCRACY?’ is poignant and timely and terrifying.

WHAT IS DEMOCRACY? could not be coming at a more tumultuous time in history. How did we get here? Director Astra Taylor poses the question to people from every corner of the globe in this poignant documentary. The film explores the past, present, and theorizes what will become of our future if we do not pause to learn from our previous mistakes. The world is in what feels like total upheaval but it is not the first time we as a civilization have been on the precipice of either disaster or triumph. We march, we vote, we are inundated with fake news, and yet the people continue to strive for peace and equality against all odds. But democracy goes both ways. That’s the very essence of the word itself. Can good prevail without its counterpart? What we gather, on the whole, is that the naive promise of democracy is beginning to feel like an unfulfilled promise. That no matter the world’s location, race, socio-economics, and money rule. Let us not become numb to the negative but continue to seek compromise and understanding. Truly, WHAT IS DEMOCRACY? should be required viewing in every high school civics class. Hell, it should be required viewing by every human being.

Acclaimed director Astra Taylor‘s WHAT IS DEMOCRACY? (TIFF 2018) opens Jan. 16, 2019 at IFC Center in New York via Zeitgeist Films in association with Kino Lorber, followed by theatrical engagements nationwide.

Synopsis: Coming at a moment of profound political and social crisis, What Is Democracy? reflects on a word we too often take for granted. Director Astra Taylor’s (Zizek! and Examined Life) idiosyncratic, philosophical journey spans millennia and continents: from ancient Athens’ groundbreaking experiment in self-government to capitalism’s roots in medieval Italy; from modern-day Greece grappling with financial collapse and a mounting refugee crisis to the United States reckoning with its racist past and the growing gap between rich and poor. The film features Cornel West, Angela Davis, theorists, activists, asylum seekers and a diverse cast of people from around the world.

Tribeca Film Festival 2017 review: ‘The Divine Order’ is gloriously relevant.

SYNOPSIS: Switzerland, 1971: Nora is a young housewife and mother who lives with her husband, their two sons and her father-in-law in a little village. Here, in the Swiss countryside, little or nothing is felt of the huge social upheavals that the movement of May 1968 has caused. Nora’s life, too, has been unaffected; she is a retiring, quiet person, well liked by everyone – until she begins to campaign publicly and pugnaciously for women’s right to vote, an issue that will be put before the male voters on February 7th, 1971.

Impeccably acted and stunningly shot, The Divine Order is a film very much relevant in today’s political climate. In the continued fight against the patriarchy, we must first educate ourselves on how far we’ve come. This film demonstrates the power of women as a collective entity fueled by passion in pursuit of equality. With fully fleshed out female characters that are nuanced and honest, writer/director Petra Volpe has given us a true cinematic gift.

Tribeca Film Festival 2017

Won
Audience Award
Narrative
Petra Biondina Volpe
Won
Jury Award
Best Actress in an International Narrative Feature
Marie Leuenberger

“For a performance that is patient, intelligent and graceful, that captured the liberation of a … More

Won
Nora Ephron Prize
Petra Biondina Volpe

“For its intrepid and compassionate storytelling, beautiful cinematography (DP-ed by a woman), … More

Nominated
Jury Award
Best International Narrative Feature
Petra Biondina Volpe

Official Sites:

Country:

Switzerland

Language:

German | English | Italian | Swiss German

Release Date:

27 October 2017 (USA)

Tribeca Film Festival reviews: ‘DEMOCRATS’ and ‘VIAJE’. Both are sweet and sour for drastically different reasons

Democrats stillDemocrats- Documentary

In a place where the people are being silenced by the old regime, free speech is punished, in a country that has produced a landscape of mindless and terrified sheep, this absorbing documentary takes us behind the curtain of the political system in Zimbabwe. Politics is full of pretenders. They fully admit to glazing over the truth and using bullying tactics to coral followers like cattle. A broken system attempts to fix itself with the formation of a dual party constitutional committee. We are privy to embattled showdowns with one party busing on “locals” for support and the opposition party fighting for it’s people’s lives, literally. Can two men guide an entire country through peaceful transition?

This is a drastic portrait of how money and power control politics. Talking points, denial, broken promises are all things we understand in the United States, but in Zimbabwe, in the shadow of Mugabe, this is something altogether next level for these people. The lies and the violence are all on camera. Despite this, it is two steps forward and 20 steps back. Whichever side you happen to be, DEMOCRATS is a brave and brilliantly cut together piece of art. The filmmakers and all those involved must be saluted for standing for something in a place where nothing is the norm.

Directed and written by Camilla Nielsson
(Denmark)—North American Premiere

In the wake of Robert Mugabe’s highly criticized 2008 presidential win, a constitutional committee was created in an effort to transition Zimbabwe away from authoritarian leadership. With unprecedented access to the two political rivals overseeing the committee, this riveting, firsthand account of a country’s fraught first steps towards democracy plays at once like an intimate political thriller and unlikely buddy film. In English, Shona with subtitles.

VIAJE_Press_1 Tribeca

Viaje- Narrative, Comedy

Lust at first sight is relatively common. Taking a chance on a stranger, these days, is pretty uncommon. Luciana and Pedro meet at a costume party and decide to leave together on a whim. Alcohol fueled inhibition leads to the prolonged weekend together camping. This film is about two people learning about each other, trusting each other, going with the flow. Relationships are complicated, but maybe, this one doesn’t have to be.

Viaje has some of the most genuine and funny dialogue I have heard in long time. When two people click, this is how they communicate. The chemistry between lead actors Kattia Gonzalez and Fernando Bolaños is palpable and delicious. They are passionate and natural and I could have watched them play off one another for ages. The film’s score is lively and fun. The camera work has a superb energy that keeps up with our vivacious leads. Shot is beautiful black and white and at a tight 70 minutes, Viaje is an honest picture of mature feelings and elegant understandings we face as we grow together and apart.

Directed By: Paz Fábrega  

Country: Costa Rica

After meeting at a party, Luciana and Pedro spark up a spontaneous rendezvous when Luciana accompanies Pedro to a national forest on a work trip. Eschewing the fraudulent nature of traditional relationships, the pair explores the beauty in the nature that surrounds them as they indulge in the passions of their encounter and navigate the various meanings of commitment.

Find out more about these two films at Tribeca Film Festival Guide 2015